A move back to Tasmania and a new coach has seen Hanny Allston take some big strides forward in the first few months of this year, and the scary thing is that she’s not even in third gear.
I had the opportunity to catch-up with Hanny yesterday, intrigued about her recent form that includes a win and new record at Six Foot Track, as well as finishing just behind world Skyrunning champion, Stevie Kremer at the recent Buffalo Stampede Skymarathon.
While many laud the breaking of Emma Murray’s nine-year Six Foot record, I think the real benchmark of where Hanny is, is the result against Stevie.
Stevie is a world-class athlete, and I mean seriously world-class. She’s up there with the likes of Rory Bosio, Emelie Forsberg and Ruby Muir to name just a few across the trail distances of 45-160kms. That’s kind of where Hanny is kicking about right now, and in speaking to her she’s barely off the starting block.
“Six Foot and Buffalo weren’t really good timing if I’m honest,” she says rather coy in nature, almost apologetic and shy. “I’m looking to peak for a little later in the year and with a change of coach, I was kind of venturing a little into the unknown as far as racing was concerned so early on.
“I’ve only just finished the orienteering champs, so trail running hasn’t been a huge emphasis for me, so to achieve the results I have so far has been a very welcome surprise – I still have lots more to do.”
And what of orienteering, were the world champs in her homeland the final hurrah? “I thought it would be, but I’ve done enough to qualify for Scotland later on in the year, so there’s a big part of me that wants to go back and give that a shot, but really the focus is taking part in the Skyrunning world series in the middle of this year, with a series of races in the Dolomites, Zermat and then finally Hong Kong.”
In some respects, it’s exciting to think that Hanny is really yet to get going. In speaking with her, I notice a far more relaxed tone in her voice and approach to running, something she attributes to the move back to Tasmania.
Gone are the hot, humid and hard landscapes of the Canberra flatlands, replaced by the wet, mountainous and some might say, ‘tougher’ conditions in Tasmania.
“I think I needed a certain degree of toughening up again,” says Hanny. “The wet and wild weather here in Tassie means there’s no hiding place for you. If you want to train, you have to get out there and brave the elements, mentally I feel much stronger and my body does too.
“There are also some truly great athletes training down here, Stu Gibson just one of them. In some respects, I idolise him and his approach to running. He has so much respect here in Tasmania, not just because of his results, but the way he goes about them. He pays his own way to races, trains and gets on with the business – he really shies away from the whole ‘elite status’ that sometimes get’s placed upon him. I really respect that and hope to try to emulate that as best I can. I don’t even view myself as an elite/professional athlete as I think it’s quite a selfish mentality – for me, it’s always been about being part of the community and looking to see what I can put back into the community.”
There’s a saying, ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team, and in Hanny’s case, there’s no ‘I’ in elite either – it’s extremely refreshing to hear this and there needs to be more of it in Australian trail running as far as I’m concerned. These are the types of positive role models we should be engendering in our sport. Those for whom, hard work, dedication and sharing experiences counts.
The move back to Tassie has also coincided with a new coach in James Kuegler and really getting back to basics with her training. Hanny’s known for her speed as a 2:40 marathon runner, and there’s no doubt a massive part of that came into play for her record-breaking Six Foot Track run. But amazingly, speed work has been low on the agenda as far as training is concerned.
“I’ve really just focused on building my foundation again. I think at some point, every runner needs to reevaluate where they are in their training and in some cases, its good to go back to a degree of base training and just simply log those miles in the legs. I love the long hard grinding uphill we have here in Tasmania and my body is becoming a lot stronger as a result. Strength development has played a massive role in my training, simply by getting on the hills with some weight in the pack and hiking hard. This has led to greater leg strength and also helped to prevent injury too. It would be fair to say that I’ve done no high intensity training, it’s all been about the longer runs and hikes.
“James has been great in looking at my running objectively and working out what’s best for me. While I coach others, it’s still just as important for the coach to be coached too. James really understands where I’m at and where I want to get to.”
The relaxed attitude also ties in with the opening of her new store in Hobart and the support of her partner, Graham too. “Graham has been awesome in allowing me to really place a big focus on my trail running, prioritising it fully. The fact is that when you compete at the top end, you have a finite period of running that your body can handle. This is the right time for me to be focusing on that and we’re right at the start of the journey.”
And this is in some respects why I say the scary thing is that Hanny is just getting started in the trail running game as far as placing a real focus on it. Her results speak for themselves now, but just how far can she go? There’s no doubting her awesome ability as an athlete, being a world champion in your chosen discipline speaks volumes, but there’s a real possibility that she could become a world champion in two sports. And how many people do we know who have done that? In our world, the only person I can think of is the little Spanish maestro, Killian Jornet.